The following article “Two Pies and a Pitchpipe” explains how the Juan De Fuca Chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society was originally founded. Since that time the chapter has had a number of different members, presidents, and directors. However in the ensuing time there was a consistent focus on men singing four part barbershop harmony. The Barbershop Harmony Society is changing and our chorus thought that it was time for a big change.
In 2008, the Juan De Fuca Chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society changed the name of the performance chorus to the Olympic Peninsula Men’s Chorus from the Strait Men Barbershop Chorus.
This was not an easy decision but ultimately even one of the founding members thought it was time for a change. That is not to say there wasn’t some resistance amongst the membership. A number of different names were suggested by the members and we had a number of votes to reduce the possibilities. A final vote resulted in the selection of Olympic Peninsula Men’s Chorus or OPMC.
OPMC is still focused on four part harmony and the barbershop style, but we are also moving forward with changes to the music and presentation to push the envelope and evolve barbershop into something that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds.
“Two Pies and a Pitchpipe”
The Origin of the Strait Men Chorus
by Mert Thornton
Barbershop chorus and quartet singing first came to the Olympic Peninsula on June 16, 1946 when the Port Angeles Chapter of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America was chartered. This, the first chartered chapter in the State of Washington, was sponsored by the Naval Elks Lodge in Port Angeles, Washington. The Port Angeles Chapter sang until the early 1950s. The chapter folded when the director moved and tenors became scarce.
In 1956, a young man by the name of Bob Chamberlain came to Port Angeles. He brought only a pitch pipe and a love for barbershop singing. Bob was introduced to barbershop music in Denver in 1951. His love for the hobby grew as he sang in a Portland, Oregon chapter prior to arriving in Port Angeles. Over the years, bob valiantly promoted the art as his quartet, “The Uncalled Four,” entertained audiences on the Olympic Peninsula.
The quartet originally met in Florence and Bob’s living room. With each succeeding week, attendance grew as more men experienced the joy of busting a chord. Florence always had two pies baked and coffee ready when we finished singing for the evening. When two pies no longer served all the chord busters in attendance, the chorus moved to the library of a local school. In 1981, Bob’s efforts to share his hobby grew from his quartet to the Strait Men Chorus of today.
The Strait Men Chorus was licensed as the Juan de Fuca Chapter of the SPEBSQSA, Inc. on December 21, 1982. At the Forty-fifth International Convention and Contest in Seattle on July 6, 1983, the chapter received its charter.
Members from all walks of life enjoy our type of singing. Some have musical backgrounds while others have none. Most of us sing just for the fun of it, and are bound by that common chord. Through the years we have grown to 54 members. With annual shows, “Singing Valentines,” Christmas caroling and a host of other activities, both as a chorus and as quartets, we’ve established a well-known respected presence on the Olympic Peninsula and beyond. Men ages 8 to barely breathing, who like to sing, offer a bit of comedy, share a real friendship, and perform with others are welcome.
The Chorus (now called the Olympic Peninsula Men’s Chorus) meets every Tuesday evening at 6:30 p. m. at the Monterra Community Club House between Sequim and Port Angeles. Click for Map.